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Meet the Winner of our Gingerboard House Contest

During the holiday season, Connecticut Science Center Members, the public, and community partners were invited to enter its Gingerboard House Contest. A twist on creating a classic gingerbread house, the program challenged competitors to use only cardboard, upcycled and recycled materials. With its Applewood Gingerboard House, Keystone Place at Newbury Brook was the business/community winner.

We recently spoke with Tracy Baldis, Director of Memory Care at Keystone Place at Newbury Brook, which is an Independent/Assisted Living Community with a Memory Care Neighborhood located in Torrington, Connecticut. We asked Tracy all about their winning design and what participating in the contest meant to its residents and staff.

“Our company originates out of Indianapolis, and we are the first Community in Keystone to be built in Connecticut.”, explain Baldis, “Keystone is an AMAZING company to be a part of!  They not only care for the quality of life of our residents but for their staff as well. Our community is always having fun of some sort.”

The Gingerboard House Contest is just one of the ways Keystone Place gets residents in the community involved. “Our entire community put on various different events that get all three sections together, plus the staff,” Baldis explained. One event she reminisced on was the pumpkin carving/ decorating contest in the fall. Anyone can get involved and once the contest is over, all pumpkins are voted on and winners are announced.

Using the “Three Rules of R” — Reuse, Refurbish, and Recycle– Keystone Place participants used donated crafting supplies and reused items from other projects that they made to create the Applewood Gingerboard House. With cardboard as its base, the house was created using construction paper; wood, and wire from donated items; candy; gingerbread; non-toxic paint; glitter; fake snow; greens; and ribbon. Non-toxic glue or frosting held it all together. “We tried to definitely keep it as natural donated items. It’s great when you can work on a project like this and not go to the store to buy anything,” said Baldis.

Our conversation with Tracy Baldis continued. Read more on Keystone’s winning design and the process that went into putting it all together:

What inspired the Applewood Gingerboard House? 

Every year, our Applewood Neighborhood (a Memory Care Community) makes various forms of gingerbread items. We make houses, trains, trees (which you see in ours). It’s that season and we like to have fun with it. Our Care Manager, Marge, saw your post on Facebook regarding a contest. She asked if we could put this into play, and I gave her the go-ahead to begin the project. She grabbed supplies and some residents and got to work. We discussed it with the other Care Managers that work in our Neighborhood on all the shifts to add pieces as they saw fit. It took off from there.

Can you explain the process of creating this piece? What was the most fun part of the process?

The process of creating this piece started with one person. She planned out ideas, grabbed supplies and some residents got to work. Discussing ideas and hearing input from the residents as they went. Since we are working in dementia care, we know that our plans don’t always go how we want. Ideas change. Time is in short bursts and every day is a new day. So, with that being said, the process was slow. But the fun part was seeing the excitement and smiles on our residents’ faces as they helped the creation form in front of their eyes.

Why do you feel it is so important for adults of all ages to get involved in projects such as this?

Projects like these are important for all ages for many reasons. It teaches creativity, structure, and teamwork. It also teaches in other ways you wouldn’t realize. It’s a great multi-sensory activity — tactile touch, for those that need it; seeing the 3D object; hearing the excitement of those gathered to help; smelling the various scents of the materials being used, and touching the various textures.

“We are grateful we were able to partake in the Gingerboard House Contest.  I think it’s great for these community-based collaborations and look forward to being a part of more with our community here at Keystone,” Baldis concluded.

On behalf of everyone at the Connecticut Science Center, congratulations to the amazing team at Keystone Place at Newbury Brook. We can’t wait to see the creation you put together in next year’s Gingerboard House Contest.

Be sure to take a look at the full list of winners of the Gingerboard House Contest online. There were so many amazing creations from kids and families of all ages. Thank you to all who participated. 

Jennifer Carmichael is a Contributing Writer at the Connecticut Science Center with a degree in Journalism from the University of Rhode Island. She’s written on lifestyle topics for magazines and newspapers throughout the state.  A mom of two teenagers, she can’t promise that parenting is a breeze, but she can offer easy tips, tricks, and advice on all things about the Science Center.